Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vacation: Day 1: Barcelona, via London and Paris

Note: Due to technical difficulties, it will be some time before I'll have access to the pictures from the first part of our cruise. Over the coming days, I'll blog about our stops, and then (hopefully) update these posts with pictures at a later date.

What a posh title, eh? I feel slightly more important for writing it, I must say. I kept a journal during our two-week cruise of the Mediterranean, and I'll be posting the entries as they are dated there, with some additional exposition, as appropriate. For example, this post is about our overnight train to Barcelona, which might strike you as an odd choice of transportation. However, what I don't mention in my journal is that we booked this cruise right around the time that volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajökull was messing up most of Europe's airspace, and we had visions of missing the ship as it left Barcelona. Oh, the irony, as you'll soon learn.

Saturday, June 19, 9:45 a.m.

We're still at least an hour outside Barcelona. The train seems to pause often; don't know whether that's normal.

In one of those funny coincidences, I've just heard a conversation outside our compartment (in English, amazingly enough) about what has happened: we hit a car at some point in the night, dragged it for 200 metres, and are now on our way back to meet another locomotive, I believe. All told, we will be between six and seven hours late. Tea's managed to fall asleep again; I don't think I'll wake her to give her the bad news. Apparently that staff member has never heard of this happening before. Oh well, this is why you don't plan to travel on the day you sail.

It's really exotic: this mix of French, English and Spanish (with both the soft 'c' that I'm used to, and the heavy 'th' of the north that sounds like yet another language to my ears). The staff really manage very well. I guess the list of destinations contribute to that exotic feeling as well: London, Paris, Barcelona... and all in less than 24 hours. (Well, according to the original plan.)

I still find it hard to believe that we hit a car! We're far back in the train, but I'd still expect to feel something. Thankfully it seems like no one was hurt too badly, otherwise I can't see the police allowing us to continue so quickly. Tea's awake now, and commented that that's probably the horrible diesel smell that filled the cabin (briefly, again, thankfully) in the middle of the night.

2:30 p.m.

The green continues to roll by. I pause as a tunnel blacks out the world. The chaos of the countryside is interrupted every so often by the perfect lines of groves and vineyards. My mobile tells me we still haven't hit the border yet. A few minutes later we stop in Cerbère.

4:20 p.m.

We're still in Cerbère. Apparently our conductor has left. There are rumours that he took some heat about the crash, and by leaving us at this border town at the end of his shift, a mere ten minutes from another station with plenty of drivers, he's really fixed us. It's difficult to get here by road, although the remaining crew assure us that we will be in Barcelona in three hours.

As the other passengers mill about out on the platform, with no one around and plenty of rusty old trains, I find myself speculating on our chances, were we the last humans on the continent.

I may come to regret my fascination with dystopian fiction and movies, particularly if we end up spending the night here; there are some really creepy tunnels just a few hundred yards down the tracks.

* * * * *

My journal skips ahead to our first stop, Villefranche-sur-Mer, at this point, but I won't leave you hanging: we made it to Barcelona; eight hours late. Still, we had time to walk along La Rambla -- stopping for some fantastic seafood paella along the way -- and down by the port with Nancy and Stephen before getting on the Brilliance the next day.

Up next: the French Riviera

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